It feels like barely five minutes since I last returned from Tanzania. Yet here I am, over one year later, writing a post on why I am planning my third trip back there...
...and how this has ultimately led to my decision to kick my travel bucket list to the kerb.
As a travel blogger, I have come across countless bucket lists of everything people want to do before proverbially “kicking the bucket”. Every day my social media newsfeeds are filled with endless stories about how fellow bloggers have finally ticked something off their list, or how many countries they have now visited in total (and lets be honest...I have even been guilty of doing this myself).
I want to point out that I'm not saying bucket lists ARE a bad thing to have. Everyone has different goals and aspirations, and if a bucket list helps you strive towards those dreams, then that's great!
But for me, it has all started to feel a little overwhelming.
Even though my day-to-day life generally feels like one huge to-do list...when it comes to travel (something that I am just that little more obsessed with), the list has actually become never-ending.
You see, the thing is....I want to do (almost) EVERYTHING. The more blog posts I read, and the more things I see crop up on my social media accounts, the more the list grows and grows.
And the more it seems like I need multiple lifetimes to actually achieve it all. And to be quite honest (being someone who is relatively goal-driven) that thought just depresses the crap out of me.
Kicking the bucket list...
About a month ago I decided that I wanted to take a couple of weeks out of work to do some more travelling.
I'd been contemplating going back to Tanzania for some time (for those of you that are new to my blog, I spent a combined total of five months - across two trips - volunteering there during my around-the-world trip in 2014/15. It is a place that completely stole my heart, and I almost ended up living there on a more permanent basis)
But my inner monologue was saying it was time to put my experience there behind me. It was time to move on and cherish the memories for what they were.
You see, in all honesty, it's taken me a good part of a year to get over the post-travel blues, settle back in to the rhythm of life here in the UK, and start making some "grown-up" decisions about what to do next.
So that little niggling voice kept telling me that going back to Tanzania would only resurface all of those feelings of uncertainty and sadness I had when I left, and when I also made the difficult decision to turn down a job opportunity and live there.
It was time to tick another place off my "bucket list" my inner voice said. Have new adventures. Create new memories. Move on.
I sat there for weeks searching for flight deals on places like Bali, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and Uganda, to name but a few. But no matter how many deals seemed to come up, I just couldn't bring myself to click "book it."
Tanzania was still lingering there in the background. It was still calling out to me.
And even though I had held back from looking at flights (knowing it would provide me with way too much temptation), one night my curiosity got the better of me.
Within minutes I had found a reasonably-priced flight. I must have sat there for a good hour pondering over it and just as I was about to close the internet browser, a feeling of spontaneity came over me and I grabbed my credit card and booked it.
So what made me decide to go back to Tanzania?
In that moment, it was like a light bulb had switched on in my head.
I didn't want to be dictated by what was on my list anymore. I wanted to live in the moment and do what felt right at the time. And at that moment, booking a flight to revisit a place I consider my second home, absolutely felt like the right thing to do.
The thought of seeing the families and children I had gotten to know in Newlands; the chance of catching up with the many friends I had made in Moshi; the idea of seeing Mount Kilimanjaro towering over the town; the prospect of possibly getting to visit the beautiful island of Zanzibar - ALL put a HUGE smile on my face.
And then a particular quote came into my head...
“You can never visit the same place twice. Each time, it's a different story. By the very act of coming back, you wipe out what came before.”
Having been to Tanzania twice already, I already know that quote to be true. Each experience was completely different, and I know the third will be too.
And surely that is what travel should be about? The experiences, the stories, the emotions that all come with each and every day you spend in a country – whether it be a new or revisited destination. It shouldn't be about the amount of countries you have seen, or how many things you have managed to tick off your bucket list.
While I will always love the thrill of not knowing what to expect when going somewhere completely new, there is something equally as exciting about going back to the same place multiple times.
New experiences...new memories...but on a deeper level...
The second, the third, the fourth time is when you really get to connect with a country. It's no longer about trying to cram in as many attractions and activities as possible, because you already know what to expect. It's about enjoying the experience and getting to know a country on a much deeper level.
When you spend long enough in one country, only then can you truly get a feel for the culture, its people, and their way of life. And to me that is more important than rushing my way through a list of countries or things to see and do.
"Hakuna Matata" - it means no worries
If I don't get to see all the countries on my list in this lifetime, then so be it. What will be will be. Or "Hakuna Matata" as the Tanzanians put it.
Instead I aim to have a better understanding of the countries I have visited, and hopefully more valuable advice to share with you as a travel blogger on those countries.
So for now, I am not going to beat myself up for not endeavouring to tick off everything on my bucket list. I'm not going to worry about how difficult it might be to say goodbye to a place I love all over again. I will deal with that when the time comes.
For now, I am going to do what feels right in the moment...and I hope you will too.
Like this post? Want more? You can also follow me on my blog Where is Noodles?